A day in the life

Local: 24 deg. 13.6 ‘ N x 82.29.9 ‘ W

Sailing under the four lowers and the JT and a sky full of stars

We’ve had a near perfect day aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer on this sunny February day. This is Katie the Director of Admissions at Williams-Mystic. Today was very busy, from the usual watch schedules to science presentations and even a marlin spike class. Here’s a detailed look at what I’ve been up to in the past 24 hours.

1900 – Galley clean-up with C Watch.  We washed dishes, galley mats, the sole (floor), trash cans, and all the surfaces in the galley to make it spick and span for the stewards.

2230 – Helped wake up A Watch who was coming on deck at 2300 for Midwatch

2301 – Asleep

0600 – A wonderful wake up encouraging me to get up on deck to see the stars before breakfast

0620 – French toast for breakfast!

0640 – Washed dishes in the galley

0700 – Listened to Lauren the assistant steward play banjo on the science deck as the sun rose

0800 – Set, furled, passed, and then re-set the Jib with C Watch and Don the Engineer. Don helped keep pace by singing a few chanteys while we worked.

0900 – Time for a deck wash!

1000 – Fruit and granola for morning snack

1015 – Cut 25 lines for marlin pike nautical science class

1100 – Assisted in the Lab double checking data with assistant scientist Mitch

1200 – Learned how to make a Turk’s head bracelet from Lisa Gilbert on the quarter deck

1300 – Mac & Cheese and Chili for Lunch

1330 – A quick nap

1400 – On deck for science poster session presentations from the students.  The goal of our research while aboard Cramer was for the students to understand the biological, geological, chemical, and physical controls on the Straits of Florida.  For example, Alix from Williams and Caroline from Hamilton explained vertical migration of zooplankton in the noon and midnight neuston net tows; Lucy from Williams, Morgan from the California Maritime Academy, and Alex from Mt Holyoke showed us the difference in bottom sediment between our continental slope and continental shelf sediment grab stations; Chris from California Maritime Academy and Casey from Mt Holyoke explained surface nutrients and productivity along our cruise track.

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Annie, Melissa, and Julia standing by their science poster on Current, Salinity, and Temperature of our three super stations!

1530 – Scones for afternoon snack

1545 – Nautical science class on deck:  splicing and whipping line

1700 – Taught a few students how to make a Turk’s head bracelet on deck while Andrew made leather cuff to prevent one of the ship’s lines from chafing and Stephanie sewed a new anchor bag for one of the dories.

1900 – Roast beef or spiced tofu, wild rice, green beans for dinner, followed by boat check, and bed. As we sail closer and closer to Key West, Florida I can’t believe how quickly our trip has gone.  Tonight the students will be taken watch by watch onto the bowsprit for a few apt readings about life at sea with Professor Lisa Gilbert as they stare into the night sky.  It is a beautiful way to spend one of our last nights on board.

Fair Winds from a happy crew,

Katie

Land Ho! A Morning Ashore at Dry Tortugas National Park

February 6, 2013

24 deg. 33.5 ‘ N x 82 deg. 49.7 ‘ W

Sailing under the four lowers and JT

Greetings from the SSV Corwith Cramer! This is Stephanie, here with another installment of our Offshore Field Seminar. Lily from Williams is currently at the helm, guiding us away from the Dry Tortugas under the supervision of Captain Justin and Second Mate Jess. Students are scattered about the deck, setting sails and preparing to head for the sunny shores of Key West. We’ve just cut power to the engine and are traveling solely by sail – the best way to travel! By now the sound of the wind in the rigging is quite familiar to the Spring ’13 class.

Our day started off early at 0600 with an all-hands wakeup for breakfast, a delicious meal of homemade hash browns, grits, and fruit. After watching the fog dissipate and the sun rise over Garden Key, the crew prepared two inflatable dinghies to take everyone ashore. Students helped out by hauling the inflatables off of the Cramer’s decks and into the water, a feat much easier said than done. Life vests were handed out for the quick trip in, their day-glow orange reflecting the eager smiles of the excited bunch. Once we were all on the island, students had some free time to stretch their legs and explore. Fort Jefferson, a brick building on Garden Key, is the largest 19th century American coastal fort. We were able to walk through its many hallways and chamber and climb to the top of its walls to see the beautiful aquamarine waters of the Gulf. This was certainly a different view from the last several days! For many students the moat that surrounded the fort was a highlight. Morgan from California Maritime Academy loved the moat so much that it took him an hour to take in the views and enjoy its beauty! Other students stretched their legs as they took laps around the fort walking and jogging.

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Students from Williams College exploring Fort Jefferson and enjoying the view of the SSV Corwith Cramer.

There is no greater noise than when you hear a student’s excitement when they realize that class will be held on a pristine white beach. Today that was the case! Students learned more about the Tortugas from Williams-Mystic Professor Lisa Gilbert , discussing how oceanography and weather have influenced the human history and current marine policy of the area. The second part of class was snorkeling in the country’s third largest barrier reef.  Armed with fins, masks, and snorkels, Annie and Julie, from Williams, joined their class for some quality time in the water. Amongst many other fish, we saw parrot fish, mackerel, moon jellyfish, and even a seven-foot grouper! Post-swimming, students enjoyed sandwiches prepared by our fantastic stewards Lauren and Shelby while they waited to go back to Cramer.

It’s hard to believe that there are only three days left in our Offshore Field Seminar.  S13 has accomplished so much this week and has had a great time learning the ropes of life at sea. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store for us!

Fair Winds,

Stephanie

The wonderful world of the Galley!

24 deg. 37.9′ N 82 deg. 52.7’W

At anchor off Garden Key, Dry Tortugas National Park

Katie here with a note from aboard the Corwith Cramer! We’ve had a wonderful day sailing in the warm Straits of Florida sunshine.  We’re now anchored at the Dry Tortugas, and have had our afternoon classes (history of Fort Jefferson and anchor theory) and science project time.  We’ll stay here overnight.

The Williams-Mystic S13 class has become comfortable on board and is excited to take on more responsibilities in the next several days.  Early this morning, B Watch completed the first deck wash of the trip.  Meagan from the University of Saint Joseph and the rest of her watch used salt water from the fire house and long arm deck brushes to keep everything clean. Tonight while we are anchored off the Dry Tortugas students will be standing their first anchor watch of the trip, making sure we maintain a steady location and continuing hourly boat checks.

One of my favorite places on the ship is the galley (kitchen), arguably one of the most essential places aboard.  I had the pleasure of spending quite a bit if time there today helping Lauren, the assistant steward, with afternoon snack.  Molly from Williams College diligently worked on dishes from breakfast and mid-morning cooking throughout her 0700-1300 watch, while I helped mix and roll out pie crust.  We had a wonderful time talking and laughing while we worked.

It always amazes me how delicious the meals are aboard the Cramer.  The stewards Shelby and Lauren create a stream of incredible gourmet meals and snacks on a 24-hour basis.  Today I learned that the basic ingredients that I can see while standing in the galley are only the beginning of the dry stores on board.  Under nearly every bunk and under every bench in the main salon, there is galley storage.  A map posted by the galley will help you find the cans of sweetened condensed milk, multiple jars of peanut butter, a wide variety of hot sauce, and pounds of rice.  Bananas and oranges are scattered forward in hanging desk baskets, while fresh vegetables, cheese, and frozen meat are kept in the ship’s relatively large reefer (refrigerator) and freezer directly under the galley.

To really show how well fed we are here is a highlight of our meals on Cramer today (yummm!):  Midnight Snack: Pumpkin chocolate chip bread; Breakfast: Home-made bagels with cream cheese, smoked salmon, capers, red onions, tomatoes, and orange juice; Morning Snack: Double chocolate chip cookies; Lunch: Chicken or Tofu fried rice and salad with mandarin oranges,cucumbers, and tomatoes; Afternoon Snack: Pie in many flavors: blueberry, pumpkin, key lime, chocolate, and pecan: all in celebration of Assistant Scientist Mitch Schrimpf’s birthday!; Dinner: Lasagna, salad, and fresh baked bread.

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S13 Students enjoying the delicious treats found on the hutch in the main salon right beside the galley. Note the fresh bagels in the middle.

I am quite certain that I will not eat this well when we return to land in a few days, but we will all pick up a few good tips from our amazing stewards before we leave!

Fair Winds,

Katie

Academia at Sea

February 4, 2013

24 deg. 22.2′ N x 083 deg. 14.4′ W

Sailing under the 4 lowers

It’s a warm Monday afternoon out here on the open waters of the Straits of Florida.  Students are busily helping out in the galley in anticipation of dinner, writing in their journals for Literature Lab, and celebrating the halfway mark of their sailing adventure! This is Stephanie, the slightly suntanned Williams-Mystic admissions counselor, writing with an update for those following along on the Williams-Mystic Spring ’13 Offshore Field Seminar.

While standing watch and finding peace in downtime is an important part of life at sea, academics are also an omnipresent aspect of this journey. This morning we completed our third and final superstation, which started with measuring the physical and chemical properties of the water column. The measurements recorded include currents, temperature, salinity, nutrients, and dissolved oxygen. Students also took two samples of the seafloor today using a grab, which brought sediment and a 5 cm brittle star that was still alive! We ended each station with neuston net tows to collect marine plants and animals from the surface of the ocean.  After today’s successful superstation, students were processing the data. For example, right now, Miho from Williams College is in the lab filtering water samples for chlorophyll-a, which is an indicator of photosynthesis at the different depths in the water column.  Later tonight, students will complete oxygen titrations to determine the amount of dissolved oxygen present in deep waters. In the meantime, students are beginning to choose topics for their upcoming science presentations. They will be giving short research presentations Thursday. We’ll have more on that later in the week, so stand by!

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Melissa from Williams College sitting on the science deck, ready to record from data from this morning’s science station.

Spring ’13 has been learning in the lab, on watch, and in daily afternoon class.  Led by Williams-Mystic Professor Lisa Gilbert and the Corwith Cramer’s professional mariners, students learn about a wide variety of maritime topics: science, marine policy, navigation, and even engineering. Part of class also includes short weather and science presentations from the students standing dawn watch (0300 – 0700).  Today Kassandra and Molly from Williams taught the crew about the Sargassum and its ecological importance.

Today’s class featured a highly anticipated rite of passage for the Spring ’13 class: they successfully completed a pin rail chase! This involved learning every line on the Cramer, from the JT sheet to the fisherman throat halyard.  Alix from Williams represented C Watch by finding the jib sheet, while Sophie from Red Rocks located the forestays’l downhaul. Students have been studying for this since we arrived and performed marvelously, managing to share a few laughs along the way.

We are looking forward to the rest of our voyage here on Cramer and will say goodnight as the sun sets on the horizon and we enjoy a banjo-ukelele-fiddle (faculty-crew-student) trio.

Fair Winds,

Stephanie

Working Hard, Eating Well, and Having Fun!

Sunday February 3, 2013

Location: 24o37.0 ‘ N x 084o00.3 ‘ W

Sails: Four lowers

With moderate seas and a favorable breeze, we are a happy crew aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer off the coast of Key West, Florida.  It's Katie here from Williams-Mystic, enjoying a beautiful and relaxing few hours on deck before afternoon class.  The students have been working extremely hard these past few days, learning how to perform their roles on board as efficiently as possible and adapting to their new schedule.  This takes a lot of hard work and requires a fair amount of sleep. I have been so impressed with their ability to work with such high spirits, even at 0300 in the morning-if there is one thing everyone on this ship has in common, it is their ability to laugh! We are also unbelievably well fed by the lovely ladies of the galley, Shelby and Lauren. Last night for midnight snack we had banana walnut muffins. Delicious!  My personal favorite meal so far was a dinner of chicken (or tempeh) parmesan with lemon asparagus and roasted potatoes.

While we certainly have been working hard while on watch, the students and crew aren’t missing out on any fun along the way.  There are moments throughout the day for a quick rest, reading, taking in the seascape on the quarterdeck, and sometimes, if we’re lucky, a musical performance by our very own Captain Justin on the guitar!

When students are not officially on watch, they can usually be found sleeping or enjoying the sunshine together on deck. Right now, Sato from Williams can be found on a deck box with her violin in hand jamming with Lauren the assistant steward on banjo, Don the engineer on ukulele, and Williams-Mystic admissions counselor Stephanie singing.

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Leah from Colgate is leisurely sitting on the quarterdeck with a box of colored pencils coloring a few pictures for the crew, while Caroline from Hamilton just came on deck to say hello before retiring below to her bunk for a quick nap before lunch. A twenty minute respite like these can really help us all relax and enjoy our time here even more.

Nearly every moment aboard the Cramer is a learning moment.  In passing, a student could learn the name of a line, why a sail is trimmed in a specific way, or which button turns on the stove, Roxie, for breakfast.  Early this morning at about 0500, the Captain came up from his cabin and immediately started pointing out his favorite constellations to C Watch (Scorpio was at the top of his list.) The professional crew is at all times more than happy to teach and often take time to share their own stories with the students.

Over the next few days, students will be working on their science projects, will be tested on their knowledge of all the lines on the ship, and will become more and more comfortable with their nautical skills.  We’ll be writing more soon!

Fair Winds,

Katie

Standing watch with Williams-Mystic S13 on the SSV Corwith Cramer

Friday February 1, 2013

Location: 24 deg 22′ N x 083 deg 52 ‘W

Clear, Force 5

Sailing under main and stays’ls

Hello from the sunny Florida Straits! This is Stephanie Trott, Admissions Counselor for Williams-Mystic, writing to you after a successful 24 hours at sea with the Spring 2013 class on the SSV Corwith Cramer. Since we departed Key West yesterday, we have traveled approximately 120 miles, much of the time going 7 to 7.5 kts (nautical miles per hour). We’ve seen dolphins, Portuguese man-o-war, flying fish, and a ton of bioluminescence.  Each student has stood watch at least twice at this point; A watch is currently at the helm, practicing line handling and preparing for science deployments later tonight. But what exactly does being on watch involve?

Watches on board the Cramer are set on a constantly revolving schedule (A, B, C, A, B, C, etc.) and are broken down by the time of day: 0700 – 1300 (7am – 1pm), 1300 – 1900 (1pm – 7pm), 1900 – 2300 (7pm – 11pm), 2300 – 0300 (11pm – 3am), and 0300 – 0700 (3am – 7am). They’re designed so that someone is always awake and aware of what’s happening while their shipmates catch some rest, have a meal, or congregate on the quarter deck.

When students first come on watch, the first thing they must do is take a deck walk to see what sails are set, what the weather is like, and what has changed since the last time they were up. If it’s nighttime, Captain Justin Smith and Chief Scientist Lisa Gilbert have each left night orders that students must also read before starting their watch. After being debriefed by the previous watch officer regarding the happenings of the last several hours, students break into two groups: one who will be working the deck, and another who will be working in the science lab. Everyone has a chance to work in both locations several times while on board; students also report to the galley to assist in clean up from a previous meal and may work in the engine room with our engineer, Don Collasius.

While on deck during watch, one student is at the helm and steers a course directed by their watch officer. Another student is on watch, usually at the bow, and is keeping a weather eye for any other ships in the area. The remaining students on deck complete boat checks (in which they check each section of the boat and record their observations in the log book) and stand by in the event that the captain decides to raise or lower sails. In the science lab, students collect samples and data throughout the day and night. Right now, Morgan from Cal Maritime, Alex from Mt. Holyoke, and Mariah from Williams are processing sargassum and zooplankton from our noon Neuston Net Tow. Students also process water samples that we take from the surface every six hours, filtering water for chlorophyll and nutrient analysis. They also keep track of temperature, salinity, and currents.

Tonight we’re headed to our first superstation, where we’ll measure the properties of the water column (temperature, salinity, light attenuation) and will collect water samples from different depths for later analysis. Stand by for more updates from the Williams-Mystic Spring ’13 Offshore Field Seminar!

Fair Winds,

Stephanie

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Casey from Mt. Holyoke, Julia from Wheaton, Dana from Drexel,
and Molly from Williams hauling line as we set sails and departed Key West.

The Spring 2013 Offshore Field Seminar Begins!

January 31, 2013

23o33.86’N x 81o47.98’W

Moored in Key West, FL

Good morning from Key West!  This is Katie Clark, the Director of Admissions at Williams-Mystic, writing from aboard the Sailing School Vessel Corwith Cramer.  We will be updating this blog every few days as able to let everyone know what we are up to, so be sure to check back regularly.

After a very early departure from Mystic, CT on Wednesday morning, the Williams-Mystic Spring 2013 class arrived in Key West, Florida! From the moment the students stepped on deck, they officially became crew members on the ship and were busy with a number of orientations.  First and foremost, Captain Justin Smith and the professional crew are concerned with the safety and well-being of the 36 crew members we have aboard. Students have been organized into three different watches: A, B, and C Watch.  Each of these watches is led by a mate and an assistant scientist. Students will be standing watch on a tight schedule at all hours of the day. Watches thus far have been through orientation in the galley (ship’s kitchen), line handling and knots, boat checks, the engine room, the doghouse, and navigation equipment and safety.   The safety station bill is one of the most important parts of this orientation as it gives each student a specific job or task during various emergency scenarios.  These were practiced earlier this morning and then will occur again in surprise drills during our trip.

Students are currently making the ship ready to leave the dock here in Key West and we will head out through the channel. Students will haul up dock lines, secure loose items on the deck, and begin to learn the lines of the sails.  We have seen many brown pelicans gliding and we are excited to see more local wildlife.  The students are looking forward to setting sail and anticipate an extraordinary experience as the SSV Corwith Cramer begins to feel more and more like home.

Fair Winds,

Katie

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Lucy from Williams practicing her bowline knot.